My sincerest apologies for my prolonged absence, Internet. This sabbatical can be attributed to the fact that my life has been mired with a myriad of mundane obligations, and appointments regarding mutilating my insides Braveheart style, as well as the unbridled lethargy that consumed his highness during your filthy Pagan holidays. Fear not though, dear readers, for I have returned as royal scrivener to pen another erudite review in the Perpetual Pages of the Moist Graffiti.
Chancelor Bennett AKA Chance the Rapper has gone from high school suspendee on the South Side of Chiraq to blog-beloved venom spitter in a hot minute. During his now infamous ten day suspension for skipping school, Bennett released his first mixtape, 10 Day, to over 100,000 downloads. Afterwards, the ostensibly* less talented Childish Gambino asked him to accompany him on his tour, and the rest is recent /r/hiphopheads history.
Bennett’s most recent effort, a mixtape entitled Acid Rap, is instantly recognizable, yet wholly original. Bennett is the ideal portmanteau of a temporally broad swath hip hop royalty. He is Nas from the Illmatic era. Weezy F. Baby before purple drank became the only crayon in his brain. Eminem circa 1999. Aubrey Graham if he had a sense of humor instead of a jar of Miracle Whip in his chest. Acid Rap is recognizable insofar as the elements of these legendary influences to the genre—from Nas’s’s’s’s jazzy piano and culturally aware lyrics, to that weird Slim Shady voice Eminem used to do— slap you in the face. Further, homeboy is not scared to drop some notes, but does so in a way that is in no way self indulgent or maudlin. Throughout 13 tracks Chance makes manifest the most magnificent parts of the genre from the last 20 years. This mixtape plays like a “Greatest Hits” off albums that never were, from artists that have arguably lost their way.
Bennett makes no effort to hide his influences, but also is unafraid to smear their sound with Acid Vision ™. The blooming horns on “Good Ass Outro,” and scat-like squawks, caws, and hiccups all through out the record sound as if they could be a spiritual sequel to Illmatic when compared to the light piano hooks and soft beats that made it so listenable twenty years ago. Perhaps more so than Good Kid m.A.A.d. City, this is the hip-hop album the heads have been waiting for. And it’s a mixtape.
The album opens incredibly strong with the aptly named “Good Ass Intro.” Horns, soulful crooning, and gorgeous beats are this song’s hallmark. It plays without the production hubris that have plagued many recent releases from some bigger names.** One is made well aware that Chance is genuinely happy to be afforded the opportunity to moisturize our elbows with bar after bar of his refreshing mixture of originality and nostalgia. This gratitude manifests itself later in the album as well in “Chain Smoker:” “I really hope you all love my shit.”
The second track comes out of the gate dippin as well. “Pusha Man” serves as expository essay on the dope game Chance regrettably knows too well through the allusion to the blacksploitation film, Supa Fly as well as a Nas-ian critique on the state of Chiraq. “They mercing kids, they murder kids here. Why you think they don’t talk about it? They deserted us here. Where the fuck is Matt Lauer at? Somebody get Katie Couric in here.” Allow the Sultan to put this in perspective for those of you who are too busy keeping up with the Kardashians to swap the W.A.S.P. network for Al-Jazeera every once in a while. Last year, from the months of January to August, fifty-eight teenagers and children were murdered in Chicago. The Sandy Hook shooting had twenty-seven victims total, twenty of which were children. Chance challenges our moral perceptions in regard to the value of life. What makes the children of Sandy Hook any different from the children of Chicago? Why does the death of twenty children in Connecticut spur months of media coverage; protests; gun restriction legislation; and moral outcry, but the deaths of children in Chicago get almost nothing by comparison?
Again, many of you scholars may not find this analysis particularly astute, but I challenge you to consider this: how sophisticated was your thinking at age twenty? It is safe to assume that at age twenty, most of us were self-involved little narcissists that couldn’t see past the next opportunity to witness the partially digested swill our university cafeterias forced down our throats rocket towards the nearest trashcan or toilet.***
This relative intellectual maturity is effectively and artfully juxtaposed with the honest and charming naiveté that comes with being old enough to die in the Middle East but too young to buy Hypnotiq. Lyrics like: “What’s better than rhymes, nickles, dimes, dollas, and dubs is dialing up your darling just for calling her up” convey maturity through the realization that there are some things more important than success, money, fame, and yes…even music. Chance’s lyrics are wise beyond his years. Many people do not realize this axiom until it is too late. His maturity regarding the state of the union is ultimately contrasted with a with a high school-tinged perception of relationships. However, instead of being cloying, this inspires nostalgia in the listener, instilling in us a desire to return to a time where falling in love was one’s chief concern.****
Further, Chance’s lyrics also contain a reliability, especially for those of us who are—how shall we say—racially ambiguous? “I used to tell hoes I was dark light or off while, but I’d fight if a nigga said that I talk white. And both my parents was black but they saw that I talk right.”
This phenomenon is experienced by thousands of racially ambiguous little mistakes; yours truly included. Too white for the black kids, too black for the white kids, but I’d be goddamned if my grandmother ever let me out of the house not knowing the difference between there, their, and they’re. As you can probably imagine, my tendency to grammar Nazi everyone from bitter math teachers who couldn’t get into med school, to the older kids in the neighborhood as we [Moist] graffitied Mr. White’s fence didn’t make me very popular in my formative years, and caused my peers to (to put it euphemistically) question my ethnicity.***** The purpose of this anecdote was not to induce sympathy, but to validate the contention that chance is rapping about culturally relevant experiences that are relatable to his fans.
Other songs on the album like “Juice,” “Chain Smoker,” “Favorite Song,” “NaNa” (complete with a sick verse from Action Bronson: “I look like Arnold Schwarzenegger in the black Hummer [get to the choppa!]”), and Smoke Again deliver Cambodian napalm verses, and beats that have set off my boss’s car alarm twice.
The personal touch at the beginning of “Everything’s Good” was a nice touch. I was genuinely interested in what Chance’s father had to say to him and found myself struggling to make out the words through the muffled phone mic. This is a testament to the narrative potential in Chance’s songs. He portrays himself as a fully realized character complete with imperfections, vices (perhaps even addictions), potential, love, fear, hate, anger, intolerance, mistakes, and triumphs. I found myself interested in this character’s background, and personality influences; and I honestly cannot wait until the next installment of this character’s story.
Moist Graffiti Rating
Beats: Got me written up for “playing loud and abrasive content at the workplace.” 92.021
Flows: Homie has bars for days. Acid Rap indeed. 95.000
Brilliant Characterization: +3
Rugrats reference in Cocoa Butter Kisses, as well and other geeky nostalgia: +2
Subtle samples from Biggy, and A Tribe Called Quest: +2
Voice may become grating for some listeners: -2
MG Rating: 98.510
*Editor’s Note: Nothing ostensible about this; Yung Lululemon is nothin’ compared to Chance’s most basic flows.
**Editor’s Note: 2013 was the year of overproduced AAA albums. It was like dying of thirst, going to Hell, and learning that your ironic punishment was having to put it in Kate Upton with three Durex heavies on. For all eternity.
***Or an unattended dresser.
****Editor’s Note: It was?
*****Mr. White, if you are reading this, leave a private message on this page or on our twitter page complete with your address, and the Offices of the Moist Graffiti will mail you a check to cover the damages caused by yours truly, and the petulant youths of our former neighborhood.